I agree with Brennen and Mriana, and I think few things fit precisely into a yes/no decision about category. Most of what we discuss is across a spectrum of ideas. We arbitrarily draw boundaries and assign different names to things on each side of the boundary. However, beliefs just one side of the line are much closer to beliefs just on the other side of the line than either is to beliefs in the center of the field.
It seems that, going from pure atheism on the left to religious fundamentalism on the right I would be at, say, the 98% left level, (I’m guessing here for the two of you), Brennen would be at the 90% left level, and Mriana would be at the 80% left level. However, a strong theist wouldn’t be able to see any difference among the three of us and label us all atheists.
Labels are, unfortunately, often a substitute for careful observation and thinking. We can’t stop other people from labeling everything, but we can be careful about recognizing the qualifications and variations that we have to consider when we use a label.
Dawkins had a sort of sliding scale of belief in God Delusion that seems pretty reasonable. I call myself an agnostic because I feel strongly that there are limits to what I can truly say I know or understand about the universe, and something we might call god could be out there somewhere just well hidden. But Doug and I have debated this, and he (and Dawkins, from his writings) see no difference between the specifics of what I believe and atheism. I don’t believe in any of the characteristics that Christianity (or the other Semitic religions) give god, but I certainly can’t definitively rule out the possibility that something created everything besides the natural processes physics explores (which due to my mathematical illiteracy are about as opaque to me as theology). In any case, if some consciousness could create the entire universe, I wouldn’t like be able to understand much about it. I don’t see any evidence for that but can’t rule it out, so that leads me to the label agnostic. But, of course, I always have to explain what I mean by that, and most on both the religious and strongly atheist sides of the spectrum find the distinction I’m making meaningless and just call me an atheist. Fine by me, since I’m not so attached to labels, as long as they don’t think they know anything useful about my position from the label alone.
I am certainly an atheist about Santa and the Tooth Faoiry. And I am an atheist about what most people mean by God. But Santa et al can be defined in fairly specific, limited ways which I can then judge the liklihood of based on the evidence. I’m suspicious of our ability to define God at all, so while I’m an atheist about any definitions or descriptions I’ve so far heard (except maybe Einstein/Spinoza/Sagan, which lots of people then respond is so vague a concept not to merit the use of the word God), I leave open the possibility that something I can’t conceive of might have created everything. Doesn’t have much practical effect on how I live, though.
And I also read lots of mythology to my daughter, including myths from major contemporary religious traditions along with Odysseus, and Odin, and all the rest. Great stories, and nothing prevents ethnocentric belief in the truth of one’s own cultural myths like familiarity with all the other myths that sound about the same but you’re suppose to believe are “just stories.”
[quote author=“Occam”]It seems that, going from pure atheism on the left to religious fundamentalism on the right I would be at, say, the 98% left level, (I’m guessing here for the two of you), Brennen would be at the 90% left level, and Mriana would be at the 80% left level. However, a strong theist wouldn’t be able to see any difference among the three of us and label us all atheists.
Yes and they do label use all atheists. However, I see nothing wrong with a sliding scale. I, myself, have one for Humanists and the religious. Secular Humanists are far left, then Spiritual Humanists, and Religious Humanists are just left of Progressive Christians and other Progressive religionists, Liberal religionists are next, then moderates, with extremists far right. It’s basically what you are doing, I’m just using labels though- albeit unclear labels. Like Mckenzie, I’m math illiterate so I use words instead of numbers and within each group are those closer to one or the other and sometimes overlapping. This same scale would work with strong/positive atheism and weak atheism too of course, I just use Humanism though due to a few more labels/groups. I also think you guessed about right for me too, but you know, I think that is where anything CSER or nuero-scientists find can be beneficial. It’s in a good area for critical analysis in that area yet at the same time being open to information that groups like CSER etc find at the same time- if that makes any sense at all. Of course, being on the “80%” left keeps walls up between/against the moderate and extremely religious. Don’t know how close-minded that would be if I ever got to go to anything like the Jesus Project though. Then again, if there are no Fundies there, it could be very open-minded.
(Side topic here) Come to think of it, 80% is funny. The Jesus seminar deduced 80% (see this month’s Free Inquiry) of what is attributed to Jesus he did not say. Which leave 20% he did say? How do they know? If it’s a story and there was no historical Jesus then he said none of it. IF, as Robert Price mentioned in an interview, there was a historical Jesus, not found anywhere else in history mind you, the man has been buried in tons of myth. Even Robert Price says it’s too late to figure out what is myth and what is not if there ever was a historical man named Jesus. So, the skeptic in me says, 80% could be very low given that a lot of it, if not the majority of it, is just rewritten myth.
This is the same argument I have with Doug. It is impportant to whether or not one is an atheist how we define god, but I don’t see the definition you give as the only reasonable one. It is a common one among contemporary religions, certainly, but the Greeks called their supernatural beings gods despite their being far from omnipotent and perfect. And, of course, who’s to say the Universe isn’t perfect, from the point of view of some being who created it? Sure, it sucks to be us sometimes, but maybe that’s how god wants it. I think we have to specify which definition of god we are atheist, theist, or agnostic about, and there are lots of different ways to do that.
I think it depends on what you mean by god, George. I seriously doubt the fundie version of God exists. I find it more probable that it would be like the wind as far as seeing and feeling it goes. The only problem with that theory, is just that- it’s just a theory. Science has yet to show any evidence that a god that is like the wind exists, unless you want to attribute it’s evidence in the chemical reactions of humans to various stimuli. There again, though, it is just part of the human body much like emotions- it’s natural, but not truly a god and is something we have yet to label with an appropriate label. Technically, spiritual feelings is similar to happy feelings, angry feelings, sad feelings- it’s just another feeling, yet the stimuli is hard to define.
[quote author=“George”]As far as the god a.k.a. wind is concerned, well, I am probably not poetic enough to see it…
I guess it’s the writer in me, but in reality, you can not see wind either- just the effect it has on trees, your hair, and alike.
I don’t know where people got the idea of God of gaps. What is that? Some supernatural deity that watches over gaps like the one in the Grand Canyon? That would make some mythological god. It makes no sense, though.
You could similarly say that you’re 90% sure that leafs are green; there is always a chance that I, or someone else, can see them red. But you wouldn’t, would you?
Is it possible that god exists? It sure is. It just isn’t probable. Just like it is possible, but not probable, that I am an elephant who knows how to type, even though I often feel like one .
I guess I’m not as confident as Dawkins and others about putting a probability of the idea of god. I’m fine with saying that prayer doesn’t cure disease, that I doubt any god that might exist cares whther I get the job, car, or girlfriend I want or, for that matter, whether a hundred thousand people get wiped out by a tsunami. When it comes to most of the specific things god is supposed to do in the real world, I agree we can debate how likely they are to be true, and I don’t find any of them especially likely. But the idea of god in the sense of some creative force or organizing principle or deep structure of the universe or cosmic wind (sorry Mriana, just teasing, :wink: ), that I’m just not qualified to understand, just as my dog can’t fathom this discussion, well I can’t put a probability on that so I don’t really have an opinion. Hence “agnostic.” All I really mean by it is that I acknowledge the depths of my ignorance and the possibility that there are limits to my capacity to udnerstand, and I plod along learning and coping as best I can comfortable with not knowing (I like to tell new colleagues, who are worrying about how little they know when they first begin to practice, that I view my ignorance as a great abyss. Every day I throw in another grain of sand, but I see no signs of it filling up yet).
I’m not saying it’s true or not, just if the wind could exist, then theoretically those like Spong, Tellich and alike could be right, but that would mean god would be a part of nature, which does not make sense when the wind has that covered. The wind has knocked down enough trees or broken a few branches to tell us it’s there and in tornado form- it’s picked up a few houses even. So, I think the wind has that song and dance covered.
However, the concept I was talking about much earlier, one can’t picture because there is nothing to picture- it’s all in the brain chemistry- neuro-science. So, technically there is no actual god, just science saying this happens when a person experiences this stimuli and has this feeling. It’s all in perception after that.
does it not all depend on how or what you mean when you say chose?
From one perspective we never chose anything. We rationalize after the event what our body did without asking our opinion on it. To save face we say we consciously chosed it. The fact could be that we have very little say in what our body do. Our consciousness lag behind.
But if I go along with chosing.
I was maybe ten years old and my mom had asked if I wanted to go with her to church. I asked if dad too was going. He told me they lied about things in church, there is no god to have faith in. When we die then we are dead and no afterlife while they claim Jesus has given them an afterlife.
I asked mom what she thought of that and she had no good answer. For her it felt good to go to church, “there has to be something or somebody setting it all going” was her intellectual answer. But her motivations seemed to me to be purely emotional.
I chosed to find dads answer more true so I chosed to be an atheist but I could also say it was not a choice at all, if felt more right to be an atheist like dad. I didn’t like that mom had such silly faith in “something or somebody” just cause it felt right to her.
So for some 30 years me was a very happy activistic atheist denouncing christians and jews and muslims when I met them.
You could even see me as a kind of atheistic evangelist. I was very eager to dizz all theistic faiths and I was less angry on Buddhism which seemed less evangelistic.
Then after 30 happy years as an atheist I hit the wall. I realised me was very religious like my mom, feelings was what motivated me. I had hated organized religion of the abramic kind for 30 years and it had no real satisfaction in it. Hate is not a good bedfellow.
So me looked into every other religion and the more I looked into them the more I realized they was bad too. Buddhism is not the innocent religion or “philosophy” the defenders of it tell us.
Do they chose to defend it or is that their body who wants them to defend it? I think it is their body doing it.
If one really look into buddhism there is very little to defend. And what you could defend is better to have without that label. To use the label buddhism to refer to basic human possibilities is to give something bad with the name or label buddhism credits they are not worthy.
If they really was able to chose they wouldn’t defend buddhism. So I am skeptical to that we are able to chose at all. To me they seem all of them to be even more trapped than even the most fundie of christians.
We have a lot of x-cristians setting up their own forum, we have no such thing among former buddhists? That tells me their indoctrination is so deep they never get free from it. Forever a servent of it. Slaves under it.
But I also say:
We are most likely slaves to our body. But one could use CBT to slowly change the body’s habits maybe. But it is extremely hard work.
Buddhist monks has meditated for year upon years and they are still trapped by buddhist thinking. That shows that their methods are very inefficient. Their meditation doesn’t help to liberate them.